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Finance Minister Carole James at the press gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, July 18, 2019.The Canadian Press

The B.C. government says temporary pandemic pay that was promised to essential workers in mid-May should be coming in October.

The stipend was promised to hundreds of thousands of essential workers for work done between March and July and some workers say they’re frustrated it still hasn’t arrived.

The premier’s office says in a statement today that the province is working closely with ministries and funding agencies to implement an invoicing and payment system for all employers so that they can receive and distribute the pay to their employees.

It says there are about 250,000 employees who will be eligible and the government recognizes the urgent need for the funds, as well as the length of time it has taken to develop a payment system for their distribution.

On Wednesday, the B.C. Government Employees’ Union called on the government to either immediately distribute the stipend or provide a firm date when workers would receive it.

Front-line workers in health, social services and corrections are eligible for the $4-an-hour lump-sum payment for straight-hours worked between March 15 and July 4.

It was to be delivered to employers through a cost-shared program with the federal government.

“Essential workers are counting on this money to pay their bills, but the (temporary pandemic pay) was also meant to be recognition of the important contribution they’ve made to get our province through this public health crisis,” union president Stephanie Smith said in a statement. “Delays send the wrong message.”

While workers in every province have experienced some delay in getting the money, B.C. workers appear to be the only ones still waiting, Smith said.

In announcing the pay as the pandemic took hold, Finance Minister Carole James said the stipend would recognize all that the workers were doing to help keep people healthy and communities running.

“We are confident that the funding will begin flowing through employers to employees in October,” the premier’s office said Thursday.

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